Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan joined the chorus along with Maharashtra in criticising Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday. An angry Vijayan characterized Goyal as dismissive and reckless, and said that action of Railways, without informing the state in advance, threatens to derail Kerala's covid-19 containment strategy, widely deemed as a successful one.
Kerala had earlier criticised the minister for Railways charting a train to the state from Mumbai a day ago, which it managed to cancel at the last minute, without informing a day ago for ensuring quarantining measures for all passengers. The state wanted all passengers to register in a web portal at least a day before the journey, so that it can send its officials to see if they have room quarantine facilities at their houses. If not, the state wanted them to go into mandatory institutional quarantine.
The state argued that this was to prevent from a potential community spread break out, which it does not have currently, from a large arrival of undocumented returnees. Goyal, however, had defended the Railways in this incident and called Kerala's e-governance strategy confounding. He had also alleged that these were excuses to not to have train services and Vijayan perhaps does not care for the welfare of the expat Malayalees.
On Tuesday, Vijayan slammed the minister stating Goyal simply did not seem to care about Kerala's containment strategy. "We received no information about the train. We informed the Railways Minister that such actions by the Railways derail the state's measures for proper observation and prevent the spread of infection. But, even after this, another train was prepared to send to Kerala in the same way. So we are prompted to approach directly the Prime Minister," he said. "Mumbai has a huge number of infections. But Kerala welcomes people returning from there. In the meanwhile, the containment strategies will have to be strictly enforced so that the disease would not spread to others," he said.
"It is too trivial a issue to take up to the Prime Minister. But because of his (Goyal's) dismissive attitude, I wrote directly to Prime Minister Narendra Modi," he said. Vijayan asked whether Goyal had his ear to the ground or understood the gravity of the threat posed by the train services. He seemed to be speaking from a space of privileged seclusion, he said.
When asked about Goyal's comments about him, Vijayan retorted: "Goyal is no judge of my actions. The people of Kerala are."
Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac also took to Twitter to criticise Goyal. "Piyush Goyal’s remarks on Kerala’s stand on sending trains to the state are unfortunate . It’s precisely because we have utmost concern for health of our citizens and expatriates coming home that we are insisting on strict protocol on rail transport which you should respect," he said in a tweet.
He later tweeted: "Our protocol for return migrants: Must register in Web portal. Local govt. will examine returnee’s house to determine if room quarantine is possible. If not institution for quarantine will be identified. Pass is issued according to state criteria for priority.Respect our norms."
"A train came from Mumbai last week. We were intimated only after train started . Unscheduled stops. Majority of passengers no passes. Anarchy in pandemic times.Railways want to be super spreader in Kerala. Stop ranting and behave responsibly. At least try to track your trains," he added.